What would happen if your clients could get immediate answers 24/7?

It is a known fact that all business owners and managers try to do their best in order to service their clients as well as attract new ones.  It is also a known fact that some clients need more attention than others especially at the time of booking.

Given that technology access is at one’s fingertips, the natural first place where potential clients initiate their search is on the hotel’s website or one of the main OTAs which will also bounce them onto the hotel’s website at some point in time should they not get the information they are looking for.

Taking this fact as one of the main considerations, having an updated website with current content (imagery included) and other supporting technology is no longer to be considered as a luxury or an extra chore that will add on to one’s workload.  This is now a necessity but it is not enough.  People like to interact and at times they find it difficult to spare some time to carry out their own research to understand what the product is all about and what services are being offered.  Instead they are looking for immediate answers only to the questions that are popping in their minds.

In order to service the above, there are three main options.  These are:

  1. Introduce an FAQ section on your website.  This section is to be maintained constantly with questions and answers that are constantly being asked to you by guests.  If there is a specific area that is being queried frequently it is suggested that specific content is then developed and properly placed on the website.  This might need to take the form of video, audio, text or a combination of all.
  2. Integrate a Live Chat system.  By allowing your customers to interact directly with a human being will immediately enhance the buying experience.  With such functionality, no opportunity will be missed and sales conversion will surely increase.  With all the positive aspects live chat brings about if maintained well, it also has its pitfalls.  If not maintained well and if service availability is infrequent or sporadic, then it might become harmful.  This brings us to the newer approach that has now become somewhat more accessible.
  3. Chatbots.  What are these?  Chatbots are human impersonators.  They are virtual robots that are able to mimic human interaction and learn along the process.  This technology is based on Artificial Intelligence principles where complex algorithms help robots learn how to interact with humans and answer questions that are being asked to them by generating answers and portraying them in natural language.  There are a number of tools available out there that allows for the implementation of such.  Some of these are free but some also come at a cost.  One will need to look into the most viable option for the business and also identify the amount of investment required in order to set this up, be it time or money.  Some of these might be complex to implement at first especially if the person setting up has limited technical knowledge.  Others are simple to setup yet require a loft of effort in order to build rules on how answers are to be generated.  The efficiency of chatbots usually comes along after a short period of time once a number of questions will start being asked every so often, allowing the algorithm to learn more as it goes along.  One must bare in mind that no human will ever be replaced totally, however this will act as a proxy system that will answer where possible or else divert queries to a human-based system (email, live chat or phone) where the chatbot’s knowledge is limited.  In this case, one must make sure that questions that have not been answered by the chatbot are then built in the rules engine where possible.

By using a combination of the above three tools, one will be making sure that clients are immediately serviced, service being provided is constant and if there is no possibility of having someone available online on a 24/7 rotation, then technology will be able to make up for the present gaps.

Retain Full Control of Your Online Brand Presence

Have you heard about the new social media platform?  They got Millions of users registered in the few months since it went viral!  Let’s open up a page for our hotel…

Typical of many to take the impulsive decision and open up pages on any platform that comes to mind.  At any point in time I’m sure that this has crossed all of our minds.  Heck, some of us even went to open up such pages to feel the hype and understand how this new platform works.  There is absolutely no shame in this, however one must bare in mind that opening up pages and sites on social media platforms also comes with added responsibility.

Before getting all impulsive and start up a social media page, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is this the Right Platform for my Hotel?
  2. What audience is this platform attracting?
  3. Is my product/service attractive enough for the audience of this platform?
  4. Am I or anyone in my team able to generate content on a defined period schedule to suit this new platform and add it to my TO-DO list?
  5. Am I or anyone in my time able to manage and maintain this page as well as monitor what users are saying about our product and/or service?

If any of the above gets answered with a straight and simple NO, then my suggestion is for you to open up a personal page to explore the platform and then deactivate the account.  Reason is that you should keep your efforts concentrated on what matters.

If any of the above is answered with a MAYBE, then stop and think about it.  Assess the situation properly then take the decision once all of them are clearly answered with a YES.

There is a simple reason on why I am giving this suggestion.  I always go by this rule of thumb as it is imperative that the content that I am providing is current.  If I open up a page that is then left dormant after a few posts, it is only bound to generate negative publicity and drive away traffic.  Being engaged is not about making use of social platforms just to capture audience and selling the service.  It is about keeping people interested and making them want to come back to your shop window to see what’s happening.

A few posts will follow shortly on best practices on how to manage your TripAdvisor page, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Snapchat and potentially more.  The message that I want to put across here is that if a page is left unattended for a long period of time and users post anything related to your service (in both good and equally in bad) then you have no chance to substantiate the argument and either thank or try to make it right.

Do you know how visitors behave on your website?

The days of having a fixed setup on your website are now over.  There are always multiple perspectives on how a website should look and what functionality is placed where.  These differ based on the experience, expertise and agenda of whoever is voicing his/her opinion.

Here are some anecdotal statements by stereotypical personas:

The Developer

The section should be placed in THIS area as it sits perfectly and would work better.

All the developer will be after would be easy maintenance and implementation.  What is not being said is that most probably the easier route is being taken.

The Designer

It would look really snazzy to have the menu placed on the side of the page and expandable when needed so as not to cover up any of the imagery and designs.

What the designer is not keeping in mind is that users need to be able to navigate properly to the right sections of your website.

What is missing here is the visitor’s needs coupled with the journey of the client who ended up purchasing through the website.  As we know the web is quite a competitive space and for accommodation providers, the market is even more cut-throat.  It is easy to get site visitors to lose interest and search elsewhere if the website is no simple to use.  With the implementation of a tool like HotJar, one will be able to gain a lot of knowledge related to customer behavior.  Besides getting direct feedback from poll mechanisms and question boxes, one of the most helpful features is the Heatmap.  Through this portrayal of the given page on your website, you will be able to understand which areas are of most interest to your guests and which areas are increasing your bounce rates.  Keeping users engaged is key to an ever increasing conversion rate.  By understanding this data and constantly improving your site content and design, it is guaranteed that site visitors will turn to your website instead of booking through an OTA like Booking.com or Expedia.  The designer and developer who worked on the website should take this feedback as a constructive one and make sure that they understand the power of customer data.  At the end of the day what matters is not just traffic to the website but the rate of conversion into actual bookings from that traffic is generated.

To get your FREE HotJar Account CLICK HERE.

Don’t Underestimate Facebook Ads

Every businessman is cautious on how money gets spent and everyone wants to make sure that the right amount of return is generated through expenditure.  For skeptics, advertising is one of those areas that always seems to be a gamble.

Over the last decade we have seen a substantial shift from offline to online advertising where platforms like google ads has shaped the way advertising is done.  With all the mechanisms available, some technologies have evolved in a way where functions have superseded functionality rendering systems complex to use and expensive to maintain.  Complexity does not mean that the platforms are ineffective.  It only means that one has to carry out a lot more work to obtain high conversion rates.  Knowing your audience and understanding how to reach the right people is your best bet for a higher click through and conversion rate.

Facebook has become THE platform that is able to get your ads exposed to your selected audience and thus guaranteeing a higher return against other platforms that are limited on the profiling levels that they are able top produce on their users.

Confirmed…There is a new Player on the Travel Market!

It is no news that people are on the constant lookout for getting their best value for money where it comes to accommodation spaces.  This has created a space in the market where home owners have been given the opportunity to put their rooms or properties up for rent through one of the most surging sites, AirBnB.com.

Demand for such accommodation space has been surging and obviously enough, did not take much time before another player decided to become part of this game.  Booking.com is now also giving the opportunity to homeowners, owners of villas and any other type of property that is not usually rented out through the traditional OTA, to put their availability up for sale.

What does this mean for hoteliers?

Hoteliers are no longer competing among themselves, but now also have to keep an eye out for the newcomers, home owners!  A few pointers to take note of:

  • Homeowners have the luxury of giving a very personal experience to their guests;
  • They are able to generate concise yet precise content about their offering;
  • Descriptions about their properties and rooms to be as accurate as they can get;
  • They are able to set the right expectations to their guests much before they arrive allowing for higher satisfaction;
  • They tend to make it right when it matters;
  • Through positive experiences, guests are heavily encouraged to leave positive feedback across multiple sites (user generated content is of utmost importance)

What should you do?

  • Keep your online presence in the top-most shape possible;
  • Are you managing to keep up with all the OTAs?  If not, start limiting presence to sites that promote you best and have yielded into the highest number of bookings;
  • Like any other business, hotel operations evolve across time.  Make sure that the descriptions you have on your website and other sites selling your property do reflect your current service proposal.  Do not try to over-sell as this will end up biting you where it hurts most.  Realistic yet searchable is the way to go;
  • If an issue is encountered during service offering, make sure that any of your employees or even yourself make yourself available to your guest and MAKE IT RIGHT;
  • Encourage online reviews.  These testimonials sell more then whatever content you will be putting online yourself.  Reason is that these reviews are completely unbiased;
  • Photography…Did I ever mention that this is one of your most important investments?  Make sure that your photos are current.  If pictures are 5 years old, then it is time to start working on new ones.